Portman Backs Obama; CENTCOM Chief's Objection; Lassie's Long Run

Portman Backs Obama; CENTCOM Chief's Objection; Lassie's Long Run

By Carl M. Cannon - September 12, 2014

Good morning, it’s Friday, September 12, 2014. Barack Obama’s schedule today underscores a president’s varied responsibilities as the nation’s chief domestic policy officer, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and sugar daddy for his political party.

Obama commemorates the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps in a South Lawn ceremony late this morning. In the afternoon, he tours Fort McHenry before headlining an evening fundraiser in Baltimore on behalf of Democratic Senate candidates.

On Capitol Hill the main focus is also on politics, starting with a determination to avoid casting any votes pertaining to the president’s still-undefined military engagement against ISIL.

The House Judiciary Committee, for instance, remained mute on whether the president has the constitutional authority to order airstrikes in Syria. But 12 of its members did find time to write to professional football Commissioner Roger Goodell demanding “the highest level of transparency” concerning the NFL’s handling of a domestic violence case by a Baltimore Ravens player.

Sixty years ago today, CBS unveiled a new television series that touched hearts in millions of American families. The program was about a dog named Lassie, and it managed to last for 17 years, changing with the times during that long run.

I’ll have an additional word on the enduring appeal of that show in a moment. Before doing so, I’d direct you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which aggregates stories and columns from across the political spectrum, and to our complement of original material from RCP’s reporters and contributors. First, a word from today’s sponsor:

Discovery Communications. The world’s leading independent programmer: 13 networks with nearly 1 billion cumulative U.S. subscribers. Always igniting your curiosity.

* * * 

Portman Backs Obama’s ISIL Plan. Adam O’Neal reports on the Ohio Republican’s comments yesterday.

President Rejected “Best Military Advice.” The head of CENTCOM wanted a more active role for U.S. advisers in Iraq. RealClearDefense editor Dustin Walker has the story.

Obama’s ISIL Strategy Plays Into Iran’s Hands. In RealClearWorld, Fabio Rafael Fiallo warns that the U.S. plan could allow the mullahs to advance their hardly hidden goal of a weaponized nuclear program.

The Security Challenges of an Independent Scotland. Also in RCWorld, Dan Mahaffee spells out the implications if Scots vote to break from the United Kingdom.

Finally, Some Explanation on the Genetic Basis of Intelligence. In RealClearEducation, Daniel Willingham describes promising new research.

Are Radical Feminists More Masculine? RealClearScience editor Ross Pomeroy examines a Swedish study into whether activists are more physiologically and psychologically masculinized than is typical for women.

Portrait of a Real Priest. In RealClearReligion, Fr. Robert Barron writes that the powerful new film “Calvary” offers a vivid picture of what authentic spiritual shepherding looks like.

* * *

American families assembled in front of their (black-and-white) television sets at 7 p.m. on Sunday, September 12, 1954, would already have been familiar with “Lassie.” The concept of a fictional long-haired collie who got human beings out of various scrapes had been a staple of several feature films produced by MGM beginning in 1943.

The title character in those films, and in the two pilots shot for the television version, was played by a male collie named Pal. And the dogs in the subsequent TV shows were a succession of Pal’s male descendants. Yes, it’s true: Technically, “Lassie” should have been “Laddie.”

The human characters in that first iteration of the CBS series included Jan Clayton, a Broadway star, as the mother named Ellen Miller, and child actor Tommy Rettig as her son Jeff. George Cleveland plays the boy’s grandfather. Ellen is a war widow; Jeff her only child.

Three years after the show began, Cleveland died and Clayton and Tommy, who had grown artistically restive, left the program. Cloris Leachman was tapped as the new mom, but the ratings dropped until June Lockhart and Hugh Reilly (as husband and wife) were brought aboard.

Over the years, “Lassie” would undergo four more configurations, including an early ’70s pro-environmental version in which she buddied around with U.S. Forest Service rangers.

Much later, June Lockhart would describe the show as “a fairy tale about people on a farm in which the dog solves all the problems in 22 minutes, in time for the last commercial.”

“Lassie” was more than that, of course. It was, at its core, a show about pure love.

In the first program, the one that aired 60 years ago this evening, Lassie is bequeathed to Jeff in the last will and testament of a neighboring farmer who has passed away. But the dog and the boy don’t bond immediately, which makes Jeff sad.

“Look, boy, there's one thing you got to understand,” his grandfather consoles him. “The Lord made animals free, just like human beings. And you can't force 'em to love you. They got to do the decidin’.”

At the end of that first episode -- after Lassie saves the day -- Jeff asks his grandfather if Lassie is now really his dog.

“Yes, boy, she's all yours now,” he replies. “She's done her decidin'."


Discovery Communications. The world’s leading independent programmer.

13 U.S. networks including the Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet and OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, and one of the nation’s leading providers of digital education products and services to over 30 million schoolchildren every day. Discovery is always igniting your curiosity. 


Carl M. Cannon
Washington Bureau Chief
Twitter: @CarlCannon

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington Bureau Chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

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